At WIOD the phones are buzzing all morning, as they have been ever since a Staten Island grand jury returned a ‘no bill’ in the case of a police officer seen on video choking Eric Garner, who eventually died. The Ferguson, Missouri shooting is still simmering and now it seems, as is often the case with news, that the multiplier effect is kicking in. Controversies involving police are revealing themselves weekly.
When all is said and done, when the protests break up, when the hurt begins to heal and both sides are ready to sit and talk, I hope we listen to cops like Ramon.
Eighty percent of the callers are self-described conservatives, but even they are not in the mood. It is not a good day for the police profession, even among those who are usually in the law and order camp. Maybe it’s the optics? Maybe it’s about a team of police officers setting out to arrest a man for selling a loose cigarette? Maybe it’s the sheer volume of police incidents lately? Or maybe it’s what the Eric Garner case elicits in all of us, that one personal experience with the cop who was rude or condescending the day he pulled us over to give us a ticket?
The phones are lit up, when suddenly Ramon calls. Ramon is not the first cop to call on this day, but he is the one who seems the most pained by what he’s hearing.
Ramon works for the one of the biggest police agencies in South Florida. I’m leaving out his last name because I’ve gotten to know him over the years and want to protect his privacy.
Ramon is hurting right now. As he talks to me, he’s almost choking back tears. “I hate this. I hate all of it,” Ramon said.
Ramon hates the negative attention on police officers that is occupying the national conversation. He is pained by the words coming from those who all too often paint all police officers with the same broad brush.
Bullies, egomaniacs, dense, insensitive, racist, callous, chauvinistic and selfish — we hear it all. So has Ramon and he’s had enough.
He reaches out because he wants us to know how much he cares about policing. It’s that important to him. Ramon’s voice is cracking as he describes why he became a police officer. “I did this because I want to help people,” Ramon explains. “That’s my job.”
Ramon is the type of cop who dutifully pulls over to help a motorist fix a flat. He likes assisting people as much as he likes talking to them.
Ramon’s dad was a cop and so is his son. He believes good cops can make a difference. And he echoes the radio callers concerns about the fact that police officers were asked to arrest a guy selling loose cigarettes.
“I hate hassling people who are simply trying to hustle or make a buck,” Ramon said. “There is nothing I dislike more about my job than having to deal with flower vendors. You think I like telling them they can’t sell flowers on the corner. I hate it!”
“I became a police officer to go after bad guys,” Ramon explains. “That’s why most of us do it.”
Ramon, like many police officers across the country, is both angry and uncomfortable in the center of the nation’s attention. He is a good cop who hurts for his profession, just as much if not more as those protestors who hurt for their cause.
And when all is said and done, when the protests break up, when the hurt begins to heal and both sides are ready to sit and talk, I hope we listen to cops like Ramon. I know I will.